We routinely conduct introductory training for conference interpreters starting to use ZipDX. Before they can join a live training call they must first verify that their computer, headsets and internet access are appropriate for the task. Our online Starting Guide For Interpreters is offered to help them prepare.
While many interpreters already have the required equipment for multilingual conference calls, we often get asked to recommend headsets. In response to such requests, we have been evaluating headsets and compiling a list of recommended models for the past year.
We began our list by evaluating those that we had on-hand. In addition, we sought suggestions from headset manufacturers, and also reached out to some experienced interpreters to ask about their experience.
We’ve come to a few practical, and notable, realizations along the way.
What makes a good headset?
- It must have a wired connection to the computer
- It must have two earpieces. This is sometimes called “stereo” or “binaural.”
- It must have a boom-mounted microphone.
- It should have a noise-reducing microphone.
- It must consistently deliver high-quality audio, in both directions, at the same time.
- Any controls, settings or adjustments should be simple and intuitive.
- It must be comfortable to wear.
- It must be durable.
In truth, a headset that meets these requirements would be a good choice for anyone routinely participating in conference calls.
Local Shops vs Online Vendors
It would be most ideal if we could recommend an affordable, high-quality headset that was conveniently available in shops everywhere… but this simply hasn’t been the case. Retail stores currently cater to two distinct markets: very low-end models aimed at “online chat” and more expensive, often complicated, models designed for gamers.
Neither are ideal for interpreters, but some may suffice in a pinch. As a result, we recommend interpreters to shop online for a headset. Specialty online resellers offer a huge range of headsets that are better suited to use with ZipDX multilingual.
In fact, the sheer number of models available online highlights the value of some specific recommendations. Where possible, we will include links to broadly available online sources, like Amazon.com.
Analog vs USB-Attached Headsets
An analog headset has one or two 3.5mm mini-plugs as the way it connects to the computer. It relies upon the computer’s built-in “sound card.”
A USB headset could also be called a “digital headset.” It has it’s own, on-board audio interface that doesn’t rely upon the computer’s sound card. It connects to a standard USB port.
While both types of headsets can be satisfactory in practice, we have found USB headsets to be preferred for three reasons:
- There’s only one type of connector used by USB-attached headsets, so there’s no chance that it won’t connect to any particular computer.
- When connected, a USB headset is identified by the computer. It’s listed clearly by name, making it easy to select as the active audio device.
- Since it’s designed explicitly for voice applications, a USB headset may include advanced audio processing (echo cancellation, noise reduction) not usually offered by the built-in sound card.
This post is just the beginning. When a new headset earns a place on our list of recommended models, we will publish a supporting review. This is simply one facet of our ongoing effort to enhance the library of information available to interpreters using ZipDX.
P.S. – If you have experience with a headset that you’d like to share, please let us know. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with the relevant details. Thanks!